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Work together on power issue

June 30, 2006

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge ruled this week that the Maryland General Assembly can dismiss the members of the state's Public Service Commission (PSC), which legislative leaders accused of not protecting power customers' interests.

Unless the ruling is appealed, legislative leaders will take charge of the effort to lessen the impact of a 72 percent rate increase proposed by the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. (BGE).

If the leadership does take charge, we urge citizens to remember two things: If the wolf of higher electric prices is at the door, the legislature unleashed it in 1999 by passing deregulation.

Even worse, they didn't pay attention to what was happening with the power markets and were blindsided by BGE's proposal.

Should the PSC have been more proactive? Sure, but that commission was dealing with an industry the legislature radically restructured in 1999 by opting for a free-market system.

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Now it's seven years later and legislative leaders are getting buyer's remorse. Maybe the PSC should have done more, but to pretend its members are solely responsible for this debacle is ridiculous.

It would also be irresponsible to suggest that the leadership that passed this bill didn't have support from the rank-and-file lawmakers. (To take a look at who voted yea or nay, visit http://mlis.state.md.us/1999rs/billfile/hb0703.htm.)

That said, we recommend that both lawmakers and the governor agree that, as the old-time politicians said, "Success has many fathers."

That means that if all can work together to fix this problem, there will be plenty of credit to pass around. If time that might be used to work on solutions is instead spent in court, citizens are the ones who will suffer.

In other words, another round of finger-pointing won't solve the problem of soaring power bills, now or in 2008, when Allegheny Energy's residential rate caps come off. It is time to forget party politics and concentrate on the needs of the people.

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